Article 8(1) and (2) of the Copyright Directive read in conjunction with Article 3(1) thereof, and Article 3(2) of the Enforcement Directive must be interpreted as precluding national legislation under which the owner of an internet connection used for copyright infringements through file-sharing cannot be held liable to pay damages if he can name at least one family member who might have had access to that connection without providing further details as to when and how the internet was used by that family member: such a legislation would make proving the alleged infringement of copyright and who was responsible for that infringement impossible and thereby not respect the requirement to ensure a fair balance between the various fundamental rights in question.
CJEU Press Release: “The German publisher Bastei Lübbe seeks, before the Landgericht München I (Regional Court, Munich I), monetary compensation from Mr Michael Strotzer on account of an audio book in which it holds the copyright and related rights being shared, for the purpose of downloading, with an unlimited number of users of a peer-to-peer internet exchange by means of an internet connection owned by Mr Strotzer.
Mr Strotzer denies having himself infringed copyright. Furthermore, he maintains that his parents, who live in the same household, also had access to that connection without, however, providing further details as to when and how the internet was used by his parents. According to the Landgericht München I, it is apparent from the case-law of the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice, Germany) that, having regard to the fundamental right to protection of family life, such a defence is sufficient under German law to exclude the owner of the internet connection from liability.
In today’s judgment, the Court answers that EU law precludes national legislation (such as that at issue, as interpreted by the relevant national courts) under which the owner of an internet connection used for copyright infringements through file-sharing cannot be held liable to pay damages if he can name at least one family member who might have had access to that connection, without providing further details as to when and how the internet was used by that family member.
The Court considers that a fair balance must be struck between the various fundamental rights, namely the right to an effective remedy and the right to intellectual property, on the one hand, and the right to respect for private and family life, on the other.
There is no such fair balance where almost absolute protection is guaranteed for the family members of the owner of an internet connection, through which copyright infringements were committed by means of file-sharing.
Read the full press release here.